Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: David Koepp; story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson; based on Characters by George Lucas
Cinematographer: Janusz Kamiński
Producer: Frank Marshall
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
I was surprised to see Spielberg abandon his roots, forfeiting what had worked three films in a row, all becoming modern classics of the highest caliber, simply in order to try and wow audiences by a bunch of the generic CGI shots. And the thing is, this might have worked if Spielberg didn’t abandon his ability to have the characters pull us in. Take a look at the intro to Raiders of the Lost Arc or The Last Crusade (it’s also been about a decade since I’ve seen Temple of Doom), and what we get is a very clear goal - get the item and escape alive. In the case of Crystal Skull, Indy is taken prisoner, forced to lead them to what they’re looking for, and then attempting to retrieve the alien corpse that he wasn’t even looking for in the first place.
While the escape sequence is kind of cool in that he ends up in a creepy life size model town used for nuclear weapon testing, it falls into trope as, naturally they’re about to test a nuclear bomb while he's there, leading Indy to hide in a refrigerator while the bomb explodes, and regardless of nuclear fallout, radiation, or how hot it’d be seconds after the explosion, Indiana just walks away. I honestly sat in disbelief that this was the world we were expected to believe. While TCL took me away into another world, within seconds of Crystal Skull I was aware I was watching an absurd film that had completely abandoned any sense of logic. The fact that this was made by Spielberg honestly breaks my heart, as this film almost seems like a pre-teenage boys overly caffeinated fantasy of what a cool Indiana Jones sequel could be.
But it actually gets worse. From this ridiculous sequence and skipping ahead about an hour, we enter into one of the most ridiculous uses of CGI I’ve ever seen, in which there’s an initial deep jungle car chase that leads to a fire ant attack. It honestly felt as though Spielberg was the fox who found his way into the henhouse, as he unrelentingly depends on CGI for nearly every shot in this entire sequence. In a high speed chase through the middle of the jungle - not on a road in the middle of the jungle, but the middle of the jungle - in which somehow the cars fail to encounter the slightest impediment - not a log, puddle, or tree stump ever stands in their way, as they cruise forward. As if that’s not enough, Shia LeBouf somehow jumps off one of the racing jeeps and grabs one of the vines, climbing or being pulled up, to which he finds a group of monkeys, who then lead him swinging through the lianas as they return to the speeding jeeps. This finally ends when they crash into a fire ant mound, which pour out and start attacking some people, but not others, like when Indiana Jones pulls out the Crystal Skull, or when they for some reason skip Irina, going for her Soviet partner instead, even though there were more than enough ants to kill everyone. It was clear that any canon had been completely discarded, looking to The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean series for the extent of logical impossibility.
By this point I couldn’t even grow nostalgic, wondering how Spielberg could have done this with his old style. It would have been impossible - the moment there was a car chase in the jungle with monkeys and thousands of fire ants attacking humans we were past any imaginings. I started to become confused, feeling a sense of betrayal, as though the character I had grown up with and loved abandoned all it stood for. I then remembered that Spielberg made Bridge of Spies last year - one of the greatest films of this decade and I calmed down.
The film continues on this path, never really topping the jungle scene’s absurdity. It culminates in some type of CGI smorgus borge, involving aliens and old ancient ruins, where a Crystal Skull is put on a different alien corpse, allowing them to hypnotize people and then destroy the place with some of gravity-defying power that soon sends the entire cast up through a water well to watch a space ship launch.
Except for the concluding epic CGI shot that was only kind of cool and the diner scene about thirty minutes into the film I don’t think I enjoyed any of this. For it to conclude on Mary and Indy’s wedding only reminded me how ridiculous her inclusion was - where in the middle of a South American jungle she just so happens to appear. And then in lightening fashion, the two look past the fact that Mary kept Mutt a secret and that they haven’t talked in over twenty years, suddenly rekindling their romance - where aside from how little sense that makes, leaves you wondering why they didn’t just get together sooner.
I don’t know why this was made. I think if a fourth was made even in the 90s it could have better, as it couldn’t have relied entirely on artificial worlds. It left me disappointed and sad. While I was once excited for Chris Pratt’s possible revival of the role, if it’s told like this - and it likely will be - I’ll just stick to the originals. And it leaves me in disbelief. Relying on modern CGI is like buying a cool and expensive car that’s going to break in a few years versus a really cool and slightly more expensive car that could last forever. Films like this do not have a shelf life. Movies like the original trilogy have proven to last forever.
BELOW: The last shot is infuriating
Please report any spelling, grammar, or factual errors or corrections on the contact page
Thoughts on films, old and new
© Jonathan Cvack and Yellow Barrel, 2015 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jon Cvack and Yellow Barrel with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.